By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Hawaii Island’s YWCA will close its Hilo pool Aug. 31.
CEO Kathleen McGilvray made the announcement Thursday to about 50 YWCA members at a gathering next to the salt water pool at the Ululani Street facility.
McGilvray said the nonprofit organization is losing about $75,000 a year on the pool, which opened in 1973.
That is a loss it can’t sustain, she said, adding that continued operation would threaten other programs.
“When I look at $75,000 losses, that impacts all of our programs,” she said at the meeting.
“Unfortunately, losing money every month will not contribute to our vitality, and our organization won’t last.”
Several members, some of whom recalled learning to swim at the pool and taking their children there, expressed disappointment over the decision.
Some also said they worry that it could lead to a reduction in membership.
“This is a vital part of our community,” YWCA member Ann Kalber said at the meeting.
Kalber told the Tribune-Herald that she sees the pool as a “community event,” adding she prefers it over Hawaii County’s facilities.
“It’s a little easier” to swim in, said Kalber, who taught her son to swim at the pool.
McGilvray said the YWCA doesn’t have enough members as it is to support the pool and that additional fee hikes would still come up short.
The YWCA raised about $49,000 through a donation drive for the solar-heated pool that began late last year, but it only covered costs up until July, she said.
Additional repairs are also needed that could cost more than $30,000, McGilvray said.
“The bottom line is we don’t have enough swimmers,” said Karen Hayashida, YWCA board chairwoman.
McGilvray said she remains open to other funding sources if they become available over the next month.
“I’d love to find an angel,” she said.
McGilvray said the organization expects to fill the pool in after it is closed but it still
needs to be determined how quickly that can be done.
It’s unclear how much that may cost.
The YWCA is not the only nonprofit organization to have had to stop offering a pool to its members.
The Boys and Girls Club of the Big Island closed its Hilo pool more than 14 years ago due to similar financial difficulties.
That pool has remained in place, though not in use, and the club is also looking to fill it in after being unable to come up with funding to re-open it, said Chief Professional Officer Zavi Brees-Saunders.
“Honestly, I think we could raise the funds to fix it, but the long-term costs of maintenance we can’t figure out,” she said.
McGilvray said the YWCA will offer a public free swim from 12:30 p.m-2:30 p.m. every Saturday in August.
Seven staff positions, including two full-time jobs, will be eliminated as a result of the closure, she said.
A separate therapy pool has also been closed for several months after a vendor stopped offering aquatic classes when it closed its business. It’s not expected to reopen.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.